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How can you gauge if learning is happening?

Updated: May 3, 2020

How can we measure learning? That really is the question for the remainder of this school year. We are working in a crisis situation with students needing to do their learning at a distance. How are we to assess this learning? How can we gauge if learning is happening? Lets remember that teaching, training and other structured learning opportunities are activities that one person does to another, while learning is something we can only do for ourselves.

Ok first we need to see the situation we are all in with this pandemic. Parents, children and families are all distancing and staying home. This is not the normal we know. This is called by many crisis learning. So we need to reevaluate what is important. Content is not the important thing. Worksheets, assignments, right and wrong answers are not the important thing. Connections with our students is essential and the only real thing we should be worried about. But we must realize learning is still happening and we need to find a way to acknowledge this.

Teachers are doing their best to continue that connection through online meet ups, great learning opportunities and so many more amazing techniques. But how do we acknowledge and give credence to the learning.

By definition learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught. The new highly technological world requires that students master higher-order thinking skills and that they are able to see the relationships among seemingly diverse concepts. These abilities -- recall, analysis, comparison, inference, and evaluation -- will be the skills of a literate twenty-first-century citizen. And these skills can't be measured by our school based tests.

Our students are wired to learn, so we don't have to worry if learning is happening at this time. But really how are we going to be able to say this is so. The answer my friends is self evaluation. Our job now is to teach our students how to evaluate their learning and accept that they are learning and growing and that they can show or explain their learning.

Lets start as simple as asking our students what went well, what they wanted to fix or if they had their wish how would they totally change this. This is a simple review, I would use with my challenging students. You know the ones who don't seem to hand in that required work. I was trying to find proof of their learning and not just base it on written output. It became a ritual to mini conference with these ones. I learnt that these kids were actually doing the work but for some reason the output just wasn't coming in. This was the catalyst point for me. I started looking at what was learning and how could my students show me they were learning and growing. If this was working for this group why couldn't it be applied to all.

So every assignment came with my 3 questions at the end and students could answer them anyway they wish. I was able to see growth and learning and it precipitated to the change of what was work I needed from students. Many projects or labs became more about the process and not the final grade and slowly i gave up more control and students were picking the projects to do for each topic and explaining to me the learning. It was working for my all my students whether they were high fliers or the challenging ones or even the main students.

My students were finding many ways to show me the process of their learning. I was given learning logs, photo journals, videos of bloopers and successes through their process, stories, raps, etc. I didn't care about the presentation method as long as it answered our main three questions, showed the learning process and showed how it fit into our topic. It worked for my secondary math, chemistry, physics, biology and calculus students and helped them prepare for their after high school years of learning.

During this crisis time, we have decided to have the final term be only 20 % of the year and it will be assessed through project based performance tasks as well as self & teacher reviews.

Our chemistry class is creating bath bombs for Organic Chemistry.

Biology students are doing an inquiry on zooniverse.

Our physics class is building an electric circuit device of some sort and gr 9s are making games from electricity.

Grade 10 science is breeding aliens (creature feature) and creating new creatures to live on any celestial object.

All of these learnings are relevant to the classes but also interesting to the students as they are individualizing the inquiry and show us the learning process that occurred. This is working for us as we can fit the projects into the area of study needed and works for students as the choose the learning path and show their learning.

How can your students show you their learning?

Content doesn't matter because we as the educators can find ways to connect it. Most of our learning occurs randomly throughout life, from new experiences, gaining information and from our perceptions. Lets spend our time seeing what are they learning now and how can they explain to us the process of the learning. Remember we are all capable of learning and are learning something new everyday, so if your students can explain their learning, we should be able to assess it and say yes they are learning.

Lets talk about what would work for you. Reach out to me with or for any ideas. I love to see others views and hear what is happening and I will continue this blog at another time.

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